By Philip D.
April 14, 2010
It would be impossible to really tell the story about my experience with HIV and not mention you; the very best thing that came from all of "this". Your love has not only propped me up through some of the toughest times but it has shown me that even the darkest, blackest cloud might just have a lining so silvery that it defies words. It's quite possible that you're the one I'd been waiting my whole life for, but da, I never thought to look for an angel.
One lonely and rainy January night, I found myself on a M4M site that, let's just say, isn't for Boy Scouts. I had no real desire to hook up or even meet that evening, I just wanted a safe place that I could check off the box marked "positive" next to HIV status for the first time, without much fan fare, as I peeked at torsos and other body "parts".
I received your message, looking for a buddy to create some "heat" on that cold night. Sure you were hot sexy, but sex was the last thing I wanted. I disclosed (for the first time) to you that I had recently tested positive and was just "looking" for now. You confided to me that you were poz as well and that you also had a pretty rough time of it in the beginning, and were there if I needed someone to listen. Very sweet but I figured you were just a horny male trying to lure me to your place. I graciously declined but did offer my number, mostly to pacify you, and logged off for the night.
Each and every morning for the next ten days there was a text from you. They all simply said, "If you want to talk, I'm here, John." Each and every morning for ten days, I deleted them. Oh, I was intrigued for sure, but why would I tell a complete stranger (even if he was cute) that I met on the Internet, my deepest, secret fears? Delete, delete, delete ... but you never gave up. Am I glad you didn't.
In those first months post diagnosis I needed so desperately just to be held. Through a phase when most new couples would be humping like bunnies, you allowed me to simply redeem my "snuggle cards" with no expectations of anything more than I could give sexually, when I know you wanted to do ... well, A LOT more. Nobody had ever loved me like that before.
Never once did you try to "fix" me or minimize what I was experiencing. Instead, you intently listened and reassured me that although my feelings seemed overwhelming at times, that each day would become easier and easier and eventually HIV would not consume my every thought. You rarely made reference to how much tougher things were "back in the day", when you found yourself in my position. Although you very easily could have (starting HAART in the late 90's was a whole different world).
You were my rock when it seemed like there was nothing I could count on and gave me reason to trust another man when so many had disappointed me before.
You helped me to laugh at myself and showed me that HIV can, in fact, be a strange little virus to host. You certainly understood my new status but more importantly, you demonstrated to me how to live with it; without letting it define me or limit what is possible. How can I begin to say "thank you" for that?
Many believe that couples learn very little about each other's "true self" during their blissful moments compared to what they will learn during the trying times. If that's true, then we've undoubtedly gone with the accelerated program. On our first dates, we skipped the usual awkward banter and soon found subjects with substance and real value to share instead. You know things about me that very few people do, and the more I know about you, the more I want to know.
Two years later, although maybe imperfect, ours is still the strongest intimate relationship I've ever been in. There have been nights I wake at 3am, to the sound of rain pelting the skylight with you and the dog snoring intermittently and know deep down that I am safe and I am loved. After too many nights sleeping alone, I understand how rare and special that is.
Sometimes, my head likes to think that "we" would have happened anyway, had my life continued on as it was without HIV, but my heart knows that's probably not the case. Whatever the answer, I still feel pretty damn lucky ... HIV and all.
I love you, John.
The reason I shared this is not to say to those who are still looking for a mate, "look at what I have"; but rather, "look what you can have". Seriously.
A Positive Spin
After testing HIV positive in 2007, I promised myself that I would make something "good" from all that I was handed. From the very beginning, each time I was presented with an obstacle or challenge, I also received some help. Usually in the form of a person, sometimes an opportunity; but I have grown so much, it has made it impossible for me to call the past few years "bad." Although I've never written much of anything before, I have been so incredibly fortunate, I feel like I must pay it forward somehow. Maybe by sharing my experience, it will help those starting later in the game, on the fast track to HAART, or anyone that's feeling a bit isolated or "stuck" with their diagnosis.
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